Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Bathroom Tale

Today I’m thinking about toilets. In my historical series, my early 20th Century farm family uses an outhouse. My farm grandparents had an outhouses, and when I was a little girl, I loved it. My grandmother was fastidious to a fault, and cleaned her outhouse twice a day with an old broom and a bucket of lye water. Another bucket of lime with a shovel stuck in it sitting in the corner, an old Sears catalog, and there you have early 20th Century bathroom technology. Simple, functional, and to the point.

When Don and I bought the house we’re in, we only planned to live here temporarily. Thus far, we have temporarily lived here for twenty-five years. One problem with knowing that you’re only going to be in a place temporarily is that you tell yourself, “Why should I update this or that? I’m only going to be here a little while longer.”

If “a little while longer” turns into a quarter of a century, this attitude will eventually lead to one living in either a museum or a dump, and probably a combination of the two - something like one of those clean but seedy roadside attractions off of I-35 outside of Ames, Iowa.
Of course, things break and wear out and one is forced to repair and replace eventually, so over the years we have managed to do some updating in spite of ourselves. No more green shag carpet. A new roof, a new fence around the back yard (though I resisted that as long as humanly possible, until a garbage truck backed into it and knocked down a long section.)
In the past year or so, we’ve slowly been updating the plumbing. This task started after the cold water tap in one of the bathrooms exploded off and spewed a fountain of water all over the ceiling and my husband to the accompaniment of much colorful language. First we had the bathroom sinks and faucets replaced, one of the toilets, the kitchen sink and fixtures, both of the outside faucets. And then yesterday, two guys spent most of the day in my back bathroom replacing the last remaining historical fixtures in my home, my 1978 vintage, 5-gallons-per-flush toilet, and my rattling, dripping shower.

Replacing the shower head and handles entailed drilling a hole into my bathroom wall and doing some mystical thing to the pipes, and as for the toilet... one might expect a toilet replacement to be a quick job, but apparently one would be wrong. The old rattletrap toilet came out in about ten minutes, but then the plumber spent the next two hours with his arm up to the elbow jammed down the drain hole doing god-knows-what before he was able to install the new commode with all the care and artistry of I.M. Pei erecting the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. But all the sturm und drang was worth it, for I now have what the plumber called “the Cadillac of toilets”, that will, in his very words, “flush a potato”. The seat isn’t heated, but it does put itself down if some inconsiderate slob forgets to do it.

As for the shower, what luxury. They put in one of those heads on a long hose that you can take off and spray all your hard-to-reach areas. I specifically got that type because I’ve always enjoyed using them when I’ve stayed in a hotel or home that has one. However, I do think it may take some training to be able to use it properly. First it seems that one must have the hose positioned properly when the head is in it’s wall holder, or the water pressure will cause the shower head to spin around like Linda Blair’s head in The Exorcist. I learned this the first time I turned it on to test it, at the cost of a damp ceiling and one sopping wet sock.
However, with practice, I’m sure I’ll be able to utilize all my new 21st Century plumbing technology like I was born to it.

1 comment:

Bathroom Cabinets said...

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